Alternative history: the 2005 championship without misfortune

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    The 2005 Formula One championship meant the end of a 5-year dominance of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, and brought Fernando Alonso his first championship title in the lightning fast Renault, battling with Kimi Räikkönen in his unreliable McLaren for the crown. How much did the Finn actually lose in reliability issues, or was Fernando Alonso the undoubted champion of 2005? So, how would things have turned out if the title contenders did not have any misfortune?

    DISCLAIMER: While anyone having watched Back to the Future understands that you can’t simply alter one thing in history without other things being affected, and thus these results are not completely definitive, they can’t be completely ignored either, considering any Formula One will always push for the best results. This article provides some context to the raw statistics of world championships.

    What counts as misfortune: mechanical failure, being crashed in to by another driver, undeserved penalties
    What does not count as misfortune: wrong tactical choices, crashing their own car, penalty by the driver’s own doing

    Grand Prix of Australia
    The qualifying session was heavily influenced by the rain, which meant that Räikkönen started from p10, and Alonso from p13. As both topped the free practice lists, with Räikkönen on top, we’ll take that as what would have been the starting grid. Also, in the context of this article, Räikkönen’s engine stalling was bad luck, which forced him to start from the pit lane. It is likely Alonso would have won the race, being the fastest car for most of the race, but team-mate Fisichella had a great race as well, and would have had a good chance to finish in front of Räikkönen. Although Barichello had a good race as well, the McLaren would have had probably stayed in front of him.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 6pt, Räikkönen 1pt
    Alternative standings: Alonso 10pt, Räikkönen 6pt

    Grand Prix of Malaysia
    Räikkönen sacrificed his qualifying position for race strategy, which completely fell apart when his tyre blew up just after his pit stop. Sadly, we’ll never know if he had been able to catch Alonso, but setting several fastest laps, a second place finish would have been very likely.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 16pt, Räikkönen 1pt
    Alternative standings: Alonso 20pt, Räikkönen 14pt

    Grand Prix of Bahrain
    Not much happened in the Arabian desert in the context of this article. Alonso was fast, Räikkönen didn’t have the speed today.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 26pt, Räikkönen 7pt
    Alternative standings: Alonso 30pt, Räikkönen 20pt

    Grand Prix of San Marino
    Today was supposed to be Räikkönen’s day, were it not for a driveshaft problem. Certainly with Alonso and Schumacher taking the fight to eachother, Kimi Räikkönen would have taken an easy win in San Marino.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 36pt, Räikkönen 7pt
    Alternative standings: Alonso 38pt, Räikkönen 30pt

    Grand Prix of Spain
    Although it could be argued Alonso’s issues with tyre wear was bad luck, it is unlikely he would have beaten Räikkönen today.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 44pt, Räikkönen 17pt
    Alternative standings: Alonso 46pt, Räikkönen 40pt

    Grand Prix of Monaco
    Another strong race for Räikkönen and tyre issues for Alonso, but none of it was bad luck. While the safety car helped Räikkönen’s strategy, he would have won either way.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 49pt, Räikkönen 27pt
    Alternative standings: Alonso 51pt, Räikkönen 50pt

    Grand Prix of Europe
    Though I am tempted to give this to Räikkönen, his dramatic suspension faillure in the second-to-last lap was due to a mistake he made earlier in the race, flat-spotting his tires in an overtaking move on Villeneuve, which was the cause of the vibrations that weakened the suspension. Had he pitted for new tires, he would have made the finish line. While it is still bad luck, since no other driver had this happen to them, it was avoidable.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 59pt, Räikkönen 27pt
    Alternative standings: Alonso 59pt, Räikkönen 50pt

    Grand Prix of Canada
    Alonso, feeling confident he would become champion that year, celebrated a little prematurely by crashing into the ‘wall of champions’. His own fault though, so no correction.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 59pt, Räikkönen 37pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 60pt, Alonso 59pt

    Grand Prix of the United States
    The tyre-debacle of the 2005 US Grand Prix handed the win to Michael Schumacher, but as both title contenders were running Michelin and withdrew from the race, we’ll call it even.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 59pt, Räikkönen 37pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 60pt, Alonso 59pt

    Grand Prix of France
    Having to change his engine on friday and receiving a penalty for that, Räikkönen’s third place on the grid was reduced to p13. Considering he was the fastest driver for most of the race, this is another race the Finn should have won.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 69pt, Räikkönen 45pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 70pt, Alonso 67pt

    Grand Prix of England
    Again, Räikkönen loses 10 spots on the grid due to an engine change, starting from p12. Considering the great start both McLarens had, Räikkönen would have likely jumped Alonso and possibly taken the lead to take the win, setting great lap times throughout the race. Conservatively though, p2 in front of Alonso was very realistic.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 77pt, Räikkönen 51pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 78pt, Alonso 73pt

    Grand Prix of Germany
    Räikkönen lead the entire race until he suffered a hydraulic faillure, with Alonso picking up the pieces. Although Montoya would have had a good chance for second place over Alonso were it not for his qualifying problems, Alonso definitely deserved second place here.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 87pt, Räikkönen 51pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 88pt, Alonso 83pt

    Grand Prix of Hungary
    After Alonso had his front-wing clipped by Ralf Schumacher in the first turn and was forced to pit, he had a generally bad race fighting back through the field. Neither Renault showed great pace though, so a realistic result for the Spaniard would have probably been fourth place behind Ralf Schumacher.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 87pt, Räikkönen 61pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 98pt, Alonso 86pt

    Grand Prix of Turkey
    The first Grand Prix of Turkey was full of action, but no bad luck in the context of this article.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 95pt, Räikkönen 71pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 108pt, Alonso 94pt

    Grand Prix of Italy
    Even despite a 10-place penalty for another engine change, Räikkönen was still on his way to victory in Monza, were it not for a deflating tyre. Without a doubt another race Räikkönen should have won.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 103pt, Räikkönen 76pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 118pt, Alonso 100pt

    Grand Prix of Belgium
    Apart from back-markers running into front-runners, neither Räikkonen nor Alonso were affected by bad luck.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 111pt, Räikkönen 86pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 128pt, Alonso 108pt

    Grand Prix of Brazil
    In Alonso’s championship race, neither were affected by bad luck.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 117pt, Räikkönen 94pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 136pt, Alonso 114pt

    Grand Prix of Japan
    Qualifying was heavily influenced by rain, which meant Alonso and Räikkönen started in the back of the field, making their 1st and 3rd place finish all the more impressive. Without bad qualifying though, Alonso would have very likely finished second, ahead of team-mate Fisichella.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 123pt, Räikkönen 104pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 146pt, Alonso 122pt

    Grand Prix of China
    The last race of the season showed that Alonso’s championship was no fluke, but Räikkönen was on his tail, neither of them having any issues.

    Standings 2005: Alonso 133pt, Räikkönen 112pt
    Alternative standings: Räikkönen 154pt, Alonso 132pt

    In conclusion I
    * Kimi Räikkönen lost a net 42 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
    * Fernando Alonso gained a net 1 point due to mechanical failures and other misfortune, both losing points and gaining points in 2005.
    * Instead of finishing 21 points behind Alonso in the championship, Räikkönen would have finished 22 points ahead of Alonso.
    * In 2005, both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen managed to win 7 races. However, were it not for the many cases of bad luck Räikkönen suffered, he would have won an incredible 10 races, almost a repeat of Schumacher’s 2002 championship. Taking away bad luck, Alonso would have only won 5 races in 2005.
    * While Alonso won the championship in Brazil, with two races to spare, had Räikkönen not had so many technical faillures this year, the Finn would have taken the championship after the Belgian Grand Prix.
    * Though not included in these stats, with Alonso being so far behind Räikkönen, you might wonder about Montoya and Schumacher. Although they both also lost points left and right, and also gained some, they would not have been a serious threat to Alonso’s vice-world championship.

    In conclusion II
    As previously covered, the statistics painted a completely different picture of the 2010 championship, which was heavily influenced by realibility issues on Vettel’s Red Bull. Losing 63 points, or 2.5 race wins, is bad in the current score system, but losing 42 points, or 4.2 race wins, with the old system, is just baffling. While many remember the reliability issues that Räikkönen suffered, even I did not realize the scale of the problem.

    The McLaren in the hands of the Finn was a bullet, and were it not for reliability issues, he would have won the championship miles ahead of the Renault. Although McLaren did seem to have sacrificed reliability for speed to a certain extent, the extent to which Räikkönen suffered problems seems far beyond ‘by design’. While some may consider the 2007 championship gifted to Räikkönen, the 2005 title is definitely one that he lost, and one that was gifted to Alonso.

    Coming up next in Alternative History F1: 2006, the last world championship fight of Michael Schumacher. Was Alonso’s second championship also helped by bad luck, or was this fight between the two titans a straight one?

    More in the ‘Alternative history: championships without misfortune’-series
    * 2007 season
    * 2008 season
    * 2010 season


    Still no such thing as the Grand Prix of England. Also, how did Alonso go from 59 to 68 in France?

    I am still loving these posts though.


    Fixed that little counting error.


    HOLY KENTUCKY FRIED MCLAREN, Raikkonen…Says a lot about Montoya that year.

    This one’s kinda iffy though. Macca sacrificed reliability for immense speed, so it’s no surprise that Kimi would’ve dominated with it had he not suffered as much as he did. Can’t take anything away from you though, OP. Nice work once again.

    Alonso sure loves to gain points from other people’s misfortune…

    Colossal Squid

    This definitely shows how fast yet fragile the McLaren was. Great stuff. For 2006, I always remember the terrible luck Schumacher had in the last two races, and how that robbed us of a truly great showdown in Brazil. Looking forward to your analysis.


    @matt90 I almost forget every single time. Thank you for reminding me.


    A few slight errors in Alonso’s points – you have given him 8 points in Europe, 10 in Germany, and 3 in Hungary (it should be 10, 8, 5 respectively), so he would end up with 134 points. Also, Raikkonen would have won 11 races by my calculations, not 10.

    A great read, though! Amazing that it was only on 4 occasions (Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain, China) that Alonso beat Raikkonen on merit (although he also outscored him in Europe).

    Dan Thorn

    Worth remembering that in many races in the second half of the season Alonso and the team played the percentage game with the lead they’d built up in the first half of the season. We saw once the championship had been won that the Alonso-Renault combination was every bit as fast as the Raikkonen-McLaren combination, so I wouldn’t say Alonso was ‘gifted it’ at all. You cover situations like that in the disclaimer, so how you then draw the ‘definite’ conclusion I don’t know.

    Also in the Japanese Grand Prix, Alonso was told to give a place back to Klien as it was thought he’d passed him illegally. He did so, but was then told he didn’t have to give it back. This cost him a lot of time (he was already several seconds down the road when he ‘had’ to give the place back) and without it he might have even won…

    Adam Tate

    Giving a spot back or not, I doubt Alonso could have beaten Kimi in Japan. They were both on fire, and despite the fact that Alonso would have been able to pass Fisi, I think Kimi could have held him off and still taken the win.

    I love these threads, it just shows what a blessing and a curse reliability or the lack thereof can be.
    Please do one for the 2003 and 2006 championships! I have always had a feeling either Kimi or Montoya could have taken it and that 2006 between Schumi and Alonso could have been even closer, like 2007 and 2008.

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